Thursday, September 26, 2013

ABSORBED: Part 10

To everyone who's emailed and messaged, thanks so much for all your wonderful support, and I'm so glad you're loving ABSORBED. To answer everyone's question: There are five more parts of Absorbed left after this one. It was originally much shorter and only nine parts, but I've made it longer. Hope you guys enjoy it! :)


Chapter Nine
Lucas Wolfe

For the next two and a half weeks I bust my ass getting “Ten Days” ready to go on my solo album. It’s time-consuming, but worth it, giving me that creative high that I haven’t felt in nearly two months. Right after I record the song—and it takes me several takes to get the version that I’m most satisfied with, which is simple, acoustic—Kylie calls while I’m at a bar to let me know that Sinjin is finally being released from rehab. At first, I’m hesitant to agree to see him right away. I’m not as pissed about what happened back in Nashville between him and Sienna; I’ve had two months to cool off from all the fucked up things he said to her when he was messed up. What I’m worried about is Sin’s reaction to seeing me.

I’ve known him since I was a kid. I know how his mind works. And I know he’s tortured over what happened. Seeing me will just add to that torment.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Lucas,” Kylie says impatiently when I tell her what’s on my mind. “Of course he wants to see you. Don’t be a douche friend.” Even though she’s not in front of me right now, I’m able to picture her brown eyes squinted into a frown as she runs her hands through her newly colored hair—the worst goddamn combination of red and blond—in frustration.

“Stop playing band mediator.” Which is what Kylie’s been doing for a long time now. She’s been convinced since the very beginning that YTS is going to break up at any moment. Kylie makes a low noise on the other line, and I groan. “But relax, I’m going to go.” Still, I clench my fingers around the lukewarm glass as I down the rest of my beer. I signal for Luisa who quirks her lips sympathetically as she nods.

My sister sighs. “Good. So, I’ll see you tomorrow? I told Sin I’d pick him up in the afternoon so I can be at your place to get you around—”

“I’ll come get you,” I interrupt. Kylie’s little car fucks me and my forehead over every time I get in it, she can’t drive my Jeep because it’s a stick, and I don’t trust her enough to give her the keys to my Audi yet. “See you at eleven.” Luisa slides my drink across the bar counter toward me, and I mouth a thank you. She winks at me then turns away to wipe down the counter.

“You better not be late.”

“Whatever, see you tomorrow.” She doesn’t have a chance to respond before I hang up, and I mute my phone before shoving it into the pocket of my jeans.

“Trouble with the redhead?” Luisa asks, pretending to be interested in a spot of abso-fucking-lutely nothing on the counter.

I cock an eyebrow at her. “Hmm?”

“The redhead who was in here the night I drove you home,” she says. When my gaze remains hard, she glares down at the counter and scrubs more furiously. “I assumed you’d gotten back together, and maybe that was her.”

The only thing I’d told Luisa the last time I was here was that Sienna had worked on the “All Over You” music video. And the closest I’d come to mentioning being in a relationship is when, instead of going back to her place, we hit a 24-hour restaurant. She told me about her most recent ex—some motherfucker whose wife had slashed her tires and busted out her windshield two months ago. I’d told her I screwed up, that I was fixing things. She hadn’t asked me to go home with her again after that. 

“You’re being summoned.” I point behind Luisa to the loud ass group waving her down on the other side of the bar. She drops the cloth to the counter, and as she starts to leave, I say quietly, “It wasn’t her.”

She nods slowly. “For what it’s worth, I hope things work out for you.” She bites her bottom lip. “Even if you did turn me down.”

“I’m not what you want,” I say, my voice colder than I intend. Luisa shakes her head.

“What-the-fuck-ever, Wolfe.” She stops biting her lip and spins around, glancing over her shoulder once just to see if I’m checking out her ass. When she realizes that I’m not, she gives me a disappointed smile. “Let me know if you need anything.”

She doesn’t make her way back over to me before I leave ten minutes later, and though I’m sure it’s intentional, I wave before I step out the front door.

***

For the first time in what seems like years, I dream that night. Not about any of my regrets or fuck-ups, not about some random bullshit, but about her. Sienna. About the day she spent with me in Atlanta right before I screwed things up with her. She’s in that Four Seasons hotel bed with me back in Atlanta, with her hair spread around her, her pink lips curved into a soft smile.

“What’s your favorite guitar,” she asks, turning her face to me.

“Depends on the day,” I say.

She traces the tip of her tongue over her lips, wetting them. It’s an innocent enough move on her part, but it’s enough to make my dick rock hard. That’s always been the thing about Sienna that I’ve loved and fucking loathed. “Okay, what about today?”

“The Les Paul.”

“Why?”

I brush my fingers over one of her perfect tits, running them over the flesh my guitar pick had skimmed the night before. Because it’s the only one I use with the pick that touched right here.”

Propping herself up on one of her elbows, she lowers her blue eyes to the small space of white sheet between our bodies. “You make me want to—” she begins. When she whispers, “Forget it,” I slide my hand up her chest, past the base of her delicate throat—which causes her to shiver—and then to under her chin. I force her gaze back up to meet mine.

“Tell me what I make you want to do,” I growl. Because chances are, I probably want it more than she does.

She clenches her teeth, but I glide the tip of my thumb between her lips, feeling a thrill of pleasure when she bites down on it hard. “You make me want to lose myself.”

“You should.” I move closer to her. “I want every part of you for myself, Sienna.”

She tosses her head back and laughs. “Let me guess? So you can use your entire guitar pick collection on me?”

“Only when you grit your fucking teeth,” I warn, and she pulls in a shaky breath.

I move my hand from her chin and wrap my arm around her shoulders until I’m carefully gripping the nape of her neck. Taking her fingers in my other hand, I press her palm up against my cock. Her eyes widen.

“God, Lucas,” she says in a harsh voice.

I give her fingers a rough squeeze. She releases a frustrated moan from the back of her throat and tightens her grip on me.

“Come here,” I order, sliding my hand between her thighs, pushing them apart so that I can guide her on top of me. Flushing, she sits upright and clenches the sides of my body between her long legs. She pushes her red hair out of her face with the hand that’s not driving me fucking insane. “I need to be inside of you.”

“Yes,” she agrees. I reach up to cup her face as she lifts her hips a little and slowly, carefully, slides my cock inside of her. Fuck. Fuck. Rocking back and forth, she moans. “Lucas?”

I squeeze my eyes shut. “Mmm hmm?”

“I love you,” she says breathlessly.

My eyes open, and I realize that I’m no longer in a hotel room with Sienna but back in my bed in Los Angeles. Alone.

“I love you, too,” I say aloud.

Part 11 coming Monday night (September 30)!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

ABSORBED: Part 9


Chapter Eight
Lucas Wolfe

By early Thursday afternoon, nearly five weeks after I sent Sienna away, I’m satisfied enough with the song, and lyrics, that I know “Ten Days” will be the first single released on my solo project. It’ll replace “Your Best Disaster”—a song I wrote nearly a year ago after getting called that (along with a few other names) by some groupie after a show in North Carolina. It hadn’t been my finest moment—I’d treated her like shit—but then, outside of music, I’ve had very few fine moments over the last several years.

As soon as Kylie comes in with lunch from her favorite fast food place, In-N-Out, I follow her into my kitchen and task her with making some calls to my label about the future of the song I’ve written for Sienna. As soon as she’s acknowledges that she’ll make a few calls as soon as she’s done with lunch, I add, “It’s got to be the first song, first music video, first everything on that album. You understand?”

She glances up from the pack of fries she just placed on the center island.  This is a first, you know?” She opens her mouth to say something else but immediately shuts it, clacking her teeth together hard in the process. I lean my shoulder up against the fridge behind me and motion my hand for her to continue. She groans, but after downing a couple of ketchup-drenched fries, she lifts her shoulders dramatically and places her elbows on the black countertop. I roll my eyes, waiting for Kylie to start the theatrics. She’s good about that. “You usually like dealing with them yourself. Guess I’m used to just being your laundry bitch.”

“You underestimate yourself,” I say. “You do travel and other shit, too. And you hack my bank accounts—that’s got to count for something.”

She narrows her dark brown eyes at me and hurls a few French fries across the kitchen, none of which actually make contact, except for the one I reach out and grab. I fling it back in her direction where it catches in her short black and blue hair.

“Your aim is shit,” I say with a grin.

“You played baseball in school, I never claimed. I was an athlete.” She takes her elbows off the island and sits back on the bar stool behind her. “I won’t be here tomorrow afternoon, by the way.” When I lift an eyebrow, she runs her hand through her hair. “I’m bored with my hair color. Thinking about pink or green or something new.”

I’m not sure what I think about something new, but I nod anyway as I turn to leave the room. Pointing at the fries she threw at me a few minutes ago, I glance back over my shoulder. “Make sure you clean that shit up.” I nearly make it out of the kitchen and into the dining room, but of course my sister has something else to say. When the fuck doesn’t she?

“Are you leaving?”

I face her, all the while continuing to walk backwards in the direction of the front foyer. “I’ve got an appointment.”

“Let me guess, a financial appointment?” Kylie demands, and there’s no way in hell I can miss the sarcasm dripping from her voice. She would automatically assume this is Sam related, and just like always, she’s fucking right. My ex-wife had called me this morning wanting to talk again, and because it’s been weeks since the bullshit she pulled in Santa Monica—because I still want her to get the hell off of my back so I can move on—I agreed to what she asked of me.

“Well, is it Samantha?” Kylie asks.

The slight quirk of my lips is just as sardonic as my sisters forced grin. “Do your job.” I turn back around just as she takes a giant, angry bite of her burger. Being Kylie, she’s got to have the last word, and I’m just about to close the house door behind me when I hear her voice.

“I won’t have a job if you keep doing this crap,” she yells. I choose not to respond—what the fuck do I even say to that other than something that will hurt her feelings—and slam the door.

The trip to my bank takes surprisingly less time than usual, and as soon as I’ve sent the wire over to Sam, I call her.

Because it’s dealing with money, she picks up on the second ring. She breathes into the phone for a few seconds like a goddamn creeper, and then she says in a deflated voice, “It’s already showing up in my account.”

I tighten my grip on the steering wheel and sneer. “Nice to know you’re on top of shit.” I can almost picture it—Sam in her luxury apartment in Atlanta, sitting on that expensive ass white leather couch with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth as she continuously refreshes her bank account. The thought makes me a little sick to my stomach, but I ignore it. The amount I sent today seemed like pennies in comparison to what my ex usually demands.

When she’d told me the amount she expected this morning, I’d been shocked, but she quickly assured me how serious she was. “Two payments,” she said. “One now, one later this year. Then I’m done.”

“Done with what?” I had asked cautiously.

“Done with this. With you. We’ll finish it up, and I’ll just pretend like you don’t exist. Like nothing you’ve done exists.”

My stomach and chest was on fire from the guilt and humiliation and anger, but I still managed to respond. “But then who’ll pay for your rent and your bullshit?” My voice was far crueler than I intended, but I couldn’t help it. Hearing her say that she’d just pretend like the last several years didn’t exist after putting me through so much shit and blackmailing me drove me over the edge.

“I’ll pay it myself,” she’d finally said, and I resisted the urge to snort. We both knew that she’d blow that money an hour after it hit her account.

“Lucas,” her voice says hoarsely, dragging me back to the present and into my car. “I’ll call you when I’m ready for the rest.”

I swing my Audi into traffic and take a deep breath. “No doubt in my mind that you will.” I'm not sure if she heard half of that, because when I call her name a moment later, she's already hung up. 

As disgusted as I am with Sam, and with myself for feeding her chaos over the last four and a half years, I’m a little grateful for her as I sit in traffic. The conversation I had with her this morning—the one that pushed me over the edge—it was exactly what I had needed to finish “Ten Days.”

PART 10 coming by late Thursday night! 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

ABSORBED: Part 8

Once again, thank you to everyone who's been following along with this serial. There are 2 parts of ABSORBED in Kylie (Lucas's sister) POV. This is the first one, and I hope you enjoy it! 





Chapter Seven
Kylie Wolfe


I’ve spent enough time with my older brother to know precisely when he’s lying to me. Lucas is usually too direct for his own damn good, so it’s easy to pick up when he’s being an evasive bull-shitter. When Brenna and I left his house yesterday afternoon, I was certain that he came home after drinking the night before—and after seeing Sienna with another man—by himself. Even if he’d wanted to get Sienna out of his system, or get back at her, he hadn’t slept with someone else.
I’d seen it in his eyes when he told me that she moved on, and that along with hearing the break in his voice had made my heart skip a beat.

My brother is in love. Chaotic, painful, heartbreaking love with a woman who loves him back. They’re in love, and they’re not doing shit about it.

And I hate that they’re not—hell, probably just as much as Lucas himself. It’s ate at me since the time I left Lucas’s place yesterday to this morning, and I’m on the verge of calling him out the moment I show up to work. I’ve got my rant prepared. I’m even ready to hear him throw my own shit into my face.

Except, after I let myself into Lucas’s house, and I find him in his infamous music room with his notebook beside of him and his acoustic guitar pulled out, I find the words I was going to say getting caught in the back of my throat.

I stand in the doorway, listening intently as he strums his Gibson and sings along, his voice so quiet that I can’t hear just what he’s saying. What I do know right away is that it’s a love song. And I can almost guarantee that it’s for her.

Lucas plays a few more notes and then sits the guitar to the side. He scribbles something—probably lyrics—inside of his notebook and then lifts his gaze to mine, staring me down with expectant hazel eyes. “You’ve got something on your mind, Ky.”

“You’re writing her a song.” I walk inside the room and sit down across from him. I lean closer to the ottoman that’s separating us in hopes that I’ll be able to get a good look at what he’s working on before he tells me to fuck off. He places the notebook in front of me and slides it in my direction until it bumps against my knees. My mouth literally drops open. “You want me to read it?”

One of Lucas’s dark eyebrows jerks up, and he shakes his head slowly. “No shit.”

Keeping my gaze on his, I grip either side of the notebook. “Are you finished with it?”
At first he nods, but then he pauses and shakes his head, causing his shaggy dark hair to fall into his eyes. “Just about. Made a few calls this morning. Trying to get it on the solo project, so I’m going to bust my fucking balls finishing it up.”

The last time Lucas had me take a look at one of his songs before it was finished he scrapped the entire damn thing claiming he’d finish later. I absolutely refuse to let this song receive that same fate, especially if he plans to release it on his solo album. I push the notebook back toward my brother. “Then maybe you should wait and—”

Shaking his head, he grabs my hands. “Just read the fucking song, Kylie.”

I keep my eye on him as I sit back in my chair until the cushions mold against my back. When I don’t look away, he jabs his finger at the music I’m holding.

“Ten Days,” I read aloud. It’s a fitting title considering the terms of Lucas’s agreement with Sienna, but I don’t offer any useless commentary as I read the lyrics carefully. My brother’s written plenty of angsty songs that have completely pulled me in, but this is the first time that I feel physical pain in my chest. He’s apologizing, and it’s raw and real, but he’s also making demands
.
He’s telling her that they’re not finished, no matter what has happened between them.

When I’m done, I lean forward and carefully place the lyrics down on the ottoman. I remain sitting like this, with my elbows on my thighs, staring down at the hastily written words on the page until they all blur together.

“Wow,” I finally murmur.

“You sound surprised.”

I drag my brown eyes up to his. The look on his face is familiar. It’s not the cockiness that usually makes me want to knee my older brother in the groin but confidence that I haven’t seen often since he returned from Atlanta without Sienna. No, I’m not surprised.

“I’m impressed,” I tell him.

He grins. “Fan-fucking-tastic.”

While Lucas gets back to work, he gives me the first bit of work I’ve done in days: verifying the flight and hotel arrangements for an awards show that Your Toxic Sequel is supposed to be presenting at next month. I don’t tell him that I checked up on the details of the event not even a week ago because I don’t want a repeat of any of the bad luck we’ve had this year with traveling.
I’m just about to leave the little office that I use when I come in to help Lucas out when I see the copy of the paperwork from the house Lucas had bought in Nashville. Sienna’s grandmother’s house. The papers are trapped beneath a paperweight shaped like a guitar, and at first, I consider leaving them down here and not even touching them.

But as I open up the office door to go back downstairs, I hear the sound of Lucas’s guitar as it strums through the chords of Sienna’s song once again. I hear hopefulness and need and love. And as my eyes land on the top sheet of the paperwork—the contact sheet—I realize what I need to do.

When I say that I’m leaving for the day and that I’ll come back tomorrow, Lucas is so consumed by his music that he barely acknowledges me. He doesn’t even glance up at me when I come right out and say that I’m going to get Sienna’s address.


So when I call her grandmother as I drive home, I convince myself that I’m making the right decision and that Lucas’s doesn’t mind at all.

Look for Part 9 in Lucas's POV very late this weekend (Sunday night)! 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Absorbed: Part 7


Chapter Six
Lucas

When the bartender drops me off at my place a little after five in the morning, my plan is to keep my ass in bed all day. To sleep off my bad mood and the hangover. My plan is shot to hell when Kylie shows up at my place at 10:30. I know it’s her and not some intruder—though as fucked up as it sounds, I think I would prefer the intruder if they left me alone—by the sound of her footsteps on the steps. Kylie always takes them two at a time.

“Are you decent?” she demands in a muffled voice outside of my closed bedroom door. I drag my pillow over my face, smothering my groans. This isn’t the first time I’ve regretted giving her a key to my place, and unless I take it back today, it won’t be the last time. “Brenna’s with me, and I don’t want you scaring her.”

Brenna—Wyatt’s daughter from a one-night stand eight years ago. My sister has always been a part of the kid’s life, but since she re-established her relationship with Wyatt, she’s been spending more and more time with Brenna. And it fucking worries me. I don’t want to see my sister hurt.

Uncovering my face, I hurl the pillow across my room. It hits the door, and Kylie murmurs something that’s barely audible as I glare up at the ceiling fan. “Thought you didn’t stalk on Sundays?” I growl.

“Can I come in?”

“Knock yourself out.”

She opens the door tentatively, a couple of inches at a time, until she’s standing in the doorway wearing a look that’s part amused, and part stern. It’s a look that’s already driving me bat-shit insane, and she hasn’t even said anything yet. “I called you this morning and wanted to check up on you when you didn’t answer. And your Jeep is missing.”

“It won’t be towed this time,” I promise. She leans against the doorframe, crossing her arms over her chest. I ignore her skeptical smirk and sit up in the bed, glancing around her. “Where’s Brenna?”

“I turned on the TV downstairs.” The moment the scowl forms on my face, Kylie drops her arms by her sides and comes all the way into the room. Her frown challenges my own. “God, calm down. She’s not four, I promise she’s not going to get into any of your shit—”

“The sound of your voice is killing me.” I don’t want to start Kylie on explanations. Not today. Now that I’m up, all I want is breakfast and something to help kill this goddamn headache. I point at her and turn my finger in a circular motion. She doesn’t protest, but faces the open bedroom door and stares out into the hallway.

“Rough night?” she asks.

I roll out of bed and walk across the carpet. “I’ve sure as fuck had better.” I grab some boxers from one of the top drawers and yank them on. “I’m decent enough now.”

Nodding, she turns around to face me. While I search for a pair of gym shorts, she sits on the edge of my bed. I don’t miss the sideways look she casts down at my tangled up bedspreads.

Groaning, I shake my head. I’ve brought very few women home with me, and one of those was the one who’s been fucking with my mind for weeks. “Relax. I don’t bring them back here, Ky, so you’re not sitting where I fucked her.”

Half a dozen emotions form on my sister’s face at once. Disgust. Disappointment. Irritation. All of them make me sick to my stomach, so I keep my gaze off of Kylie’s brown eyes as I yank on a pair of Nike shorts. “Nice, Lucas. Really nice,” she finally says. She scuffs the soles of her blue Converse together for a moment and then sighs. “If you’re expecting me to bitch, you shouldn’t.”

“Get up,” I order. She complies by moving a few feet away from the bed to sit on the black chair that’s adjacent from the bed. “And no, I didn’t expect you to bitch. Just don’t like when you give me that look.”

She shrugs and brings her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. “Guess I’m hoping for a happily ever after.”

“From a fucked-up asshole and a woman who won’t even return your calls. Fuck, let me rephrase that. From a woman who has already changed her number. You should expect the worst.”

Kylie flinches. “What happened?” She places her chin on the tops of her knees and follows my movements carefully as I make my bed.

“She’s already moved on.”

“You don’t know that,” she says. When the muscles in my back tighten, she sucks in a breath through her teeth. “You saw her—did you see her out with someone else?”

I’m not going to confirm it directly—because I don’t want to face the fucking emotions that it sends rolling through me—so I slam one of my pillows into place and shrug. “Shit happens.”

Kylie lets go of her legs and stretches them back down to the floor. She rakes her hand through her short, black and blue hair and presses her lips together into a thin line, working them back and forth. Trying to come up with what to say to make me feel better. It only makes me uncomfortable.

I sit on the side of the bed facing her, gripping the mattress tightly. “Don’t you need to go check on Brenna?”

Nodding, my sister rises to her feet. She smiles one of those smiles that won’t reach her eyes. I’m used to seeing her look like that when it comes to Wyatt, but never with me. “Pull your shit together, big brother. You want her. You’re in love with her. So do something about it.” She walks to the door, shoving her hands deep into the pockets of her jeans. “Besides, you’re not exactly playing the part of Mr. Innocent. Just calm the hell down and fix things, okay?”

I give her a tight-lipped smirk—and I’ve been doing a lot of that lately—and I nod my head. “Thanks for the advice.”

She lifts her shoulders slightly, and my gaze drops to her giant cluster of blackbird tattoos. Even though she knows I’m looking, she doesn’t move to cover them up like she used to. “You’re the one who wasted your ten days with her and got only eight because of your stupidity.”

“And thanks for shooting me in the balls.”

Her eyebrows draw together in sympathy. “I’ll come tomorrow to do, you know, actual work.”

“Trying to tell me something?”

She walks backwards into the hallway, her hands still in her pockets. “That it would be nice for you to get off your ass and make music and give me some errands to run so I can get paid.”

Noted. I wait until she and Brenna are gone, and I see her tiny car leave my driveway, to go downstairs. I’m in the middle of ordering lunch when I realize just how important Kylie’s words to me are. How they’re what I’ve been looking for.

I forget about lunch, forget everything else, as I write the first two lines of Sienna’s song. A song that I don’t know if she’ll ever hear, but one I’ve got to write so I can get her the fuck out of my system.

“I’m the one who wasted ten days, trading it in for eight
And I know you’re probably saying, fuck me right now . . .”

Before I grab my guitar and put music to the words, I send Kylie a text.

11:08 AM: Be here first thing tomorrow. Shit to do.

She takes awhile to respond, but when she finally does, there are no words on the screen. Just a few symbols in the shape of a heart.


Part 8 coming very soon! 


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Absorbed: Part 6

Hi guys, as promised, here's Part 6 of Absorbed! I'll be keeping to the original schedule of posting once per week next week, so look for Part 7 and 8 late next week. Thanks so much for reading! :)

-Emily


Chapter Five
Lucas

I start to drag my eyes away from the woman and put her out of my mind because I’ve told myself I wouldn’t think about Sienna tonight, but the flash of a long, vivid red ponytail stops me. Hell, it nearly makes me lose my breath. And as Sienna slides into the seat next to the woman and straightens the strapless top that came down with the motion, it’s impossible for me to look away from her. She’s that fucking beautiful. Cupping her hand over her mouth, she bends until her lips are level with the other woman’s ear and whispers something that causes them both to laugh.

My plan to forget her flies out this dingy ass bar because I want to hear her laugh. I want to feel her hands touching me. And I want to touch her.

This is my chance. My opportunity to tell her how I feel without songs or elaborate gimmicks, and I know I need to take it. I drop my gaze down to my empty bottles and then drag it back up to Sienna. She’s sipping on something that’s pink and fruity-looking, and though my eyes are burning into her, she doesn’t glance across the bar at me. Instead, she lowers her glass to the bar counter and rubs the palms of her hands across her cheeks, wiping away tears of laughter. It’s a bitter, gut-twisting reminder that the last time I saw her, the last time I held her—she had been crying for an entirely different reason. Because of me.

“Sorry it took so long,” the bartender is out of breath as she walks back over to me. She slides another Sam Adams into my palm, taking the extra time to close my fingers around the cold glass. “You know how this place goes. Some nights we’re dead and then others we’re like—”

“What’s she having?”

The blonde’s pretty features draw together into a deep frown as she turns slowly and follows the direction of my gaze. “Which one?” The disappointment in her tone is unmistakable.

“The redhead,” I start, but then I hear the way of my voice sounds—like a fucking virgin finding his first Belladonna movie online—and I scale it back. “Just wanted to send her a drink. She did some work on one of our videos a few years ago. Wanted to tell her thanks for . . . putting up with my bullshit.”

Relaxing her frown into an easy smile, the blonde bobs her head. “Ah, okay. God, you know everyone don’t you?” She glances back over her shoulder at me, and I look her in the eye, trying to keep my gaze off of Sienna so that I can keep the dumbass look of excitement off my face. I’ve never put much stock in fate, but if this isn’t it, what the hell is?

The bartender clears her throat and turns her gaze back to Sienna and the brunette. “Should I tell her it’s from you and what it’s for? Last thing I want to do is piss off the guy she’s with, you know?”

“What?” That single word comes out too sharp, too loud, and too emotional. The bartender must catch it too because she turns all the way around to face me quickly, her mouth parted in surprise. For the first time since I got here tonight, I actually pay attention to the tiny nametag pinned to the hem of her halter top. “Shit, sorry. I . . . I just didn’t catch what you said, Luisa?”

“You sure I don’t need to take your keys?” she demands teasingly as she bends her face close to me, no doubt to make sure I don’t reek of hard liquor she probably thinks I downed before coming here. Once she’s satisfied, she moves back a little and jerks her thumb over her shoulder. “The redhead came in with some blonde guy who—” Her eyes focus on something a few feet away from me, and she stands upright. “She came in with that guy.”

I force my gaze to where she’s pointing her long, black-painted fingernail—a blonde guy, just like she said. I know I shouldn’t look, because I know it’s what’ll hurt the most, but I watch as he joins Sienna and her roommate. I watch as he touches his chin to the top of Red’s hair, before bending to whisper something into her ear. She grins before spinning around on the bar stool and throwing her arms around his shoulders. And I watch as he returns the gesture, splaying the large palm of his hand out on her slim back and rubbing his fingers in a circular motion in the spot where her bra clasps together beneath the thin fabric of her strapless top.

I watch all of it, and I realize that I haven’t felt so fucking sick, so ripped apart in four years.

“Look, I can send her the drink,” the bartender starts hesitantly. “I just didn’t want any misunderstandings. My boss would freak.” She gives me a sympathetic smile because all of the bitter emotions that are causing the inside of my chest to feel it is seconds from exploding must be playing out on my face.

Sienna’s moved on.

She’s fucking moved on already, and it’s barely been a month.

And the worst part of it all is that I know she deserves it. She deserves to be happy after what I’ve put her through not once, but twice.

But even the regret, the knowledge that I’m the cause of all of this—even that doesn’t make shit better for me. It doesn’t stop the fact that I wish I could trade places with that blonde mother fucker across the bar, just to be with her right now.

“Don’t send it to her,” I hear myself say, and Luisa grants me a swift, obedient nod.

“You got it.”

I don’t have to ask her for another beer, and then the next two that come after that. She brings them to me easily. She doesn’t mention Sienna again because Red’s whole party leaves the bar shortly thereafter, never noticing me. The next time Luisa mumbles more than a couple words to me is just as the bar is closing. She leans over the bar, like she did earlier, and looks me in the eye.

“You need a ride home.” It’s not a question, but a statement, and I smirk at her.

“Looks like I fucking do.”

“I’ll drive you in twenty.”
 
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